COGAN STATION, Pa. - A third woman has been arrested in the investigation that led to discovery of the bodies of two young girls missing for years and buried in the backyard of a Pennsylvania home, authorities said.
Michele Butler, 48, of Williamsport, is charged with child endangerment and obstruction, the same charges leveled earlier in Lycoming County against her daughter, 26-year-old Echo Butler, and the mother of the two girls, 32-year-old Marie Snyder.
Authorities on Monday identified the bodies found in the backyard of the Old Lycoming Township residence as those of 6-year-old Nicole Snyder and 4-year-old Jasmine Snyder. The older girl was buried in 2016 and the younger one was buried in 2017, authorities said.
No charges are currently filed in their deaths, but authorities have opened a homicide investigation. The bodies were taken Monday to Erie for examination by a forensic anthropologist. Chief Chris Kriner of the township police department said an investigation continues "into the manner of death, motive and the timeline of events."
In early September, the Children and Youth Services department began investigating reports about "educational issues" involving Snyder's 7-year-old son, Kriner said. Officials then learned that she had two other children who were unaccounted for, and last month sought help from police, he said.
Authorities said the father of the girls reported last having seen them in 2015, the same year as their last contact with medical, court or other personnel. Robert Mausteller of the township police department said officials were told in September that the girls were staying with a friend.
Marie Snyder was arrested at her Clinton County workplace Nov. 4 and refused to provide information about the whereabouts of the girls, Kriner said. The property was searched several times over the next few days, and the remains were found over the weekend.
All three women have been ordered held without bail pending Nov. 17 preliminary hearings. Court documents don’t list attorneys representing the defendants; messages were left at phone numbers listed in their names.